Execute Better and Improve Team Morale by Overcoming Your Fear of Conflict.
The discussion is tense and Laura, the head of support, interrupts “Everyone take a deep breath. I’m sensing a lot of tension right now and I think we need to take a few minutes to calm down.” At that point in my career I’d never heard a leader talk directly about emotions in a meeting… and I was floored. Her interjection had the immediate affect of calming the room down by introducing some empathy into the conversation.
This interaction inspired me to think more deeply about conflict.
Conflict is only constructive when it is surfaced.
Conflict helps us improve when it’s resolved quickly. Problems are framed and solutions prioritized. Resolving conflict builds credibility with your team and your team’s fear of conflict decreases with each successful resolution.
Enduring conflict leads to compounding friction.
When conflict festers it leads to personality clashes and political fights. Conflict is avoided by hiding or mis-representing problems and over time your credibility as a leader is lost and morale degrades.
Leaders tolerate conflict for three primary reasons.
Leaders don’t know how to start.
These are crucial conversations and it’s easy to send the wrong signal to your team or damage relationships with peers. Avoiding the conversation is easier than figuring out the appropriate time and approach to address the issue.
Leaders fear emotional consequences.
Addressing conflict risks that someone is going to be upset. It can be uncomfortable to smooth over egos or address flight risks.
Lack of trust
If someone doesn’t trust their peers or management chain to back them up then attempts to resolve the conflict could fail, resulting in a loss of credibility or political consequences.
Ultimately, it comes down to fear.
Hesitancy to address conflict is based in fear and that fear will undermine your efforts to fulfill your vision. I encourage you to take a moment to think about where there might be festering conflict in you organization and what addressing it could unlock.
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